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9 May 2012

Health services at risk in Cardiff and Vale

Ross Saunders

Cardiff and Vale Health Board celebrated International Workers' Day by agreeing to slash another 67 million from the NHS services it provides.

The West Wing of Cardiff Royal Infirmary, which treats elderly patients, Rookwood Hospital, which houses specialist facilities for stroke sufferers, and Whitchurch Hospital, a mental health facility, have all been targeted for closure. Many smaller facilities out in the community will also shut unless the plans are stopped.

This latest round of cuts comes after an eye-watering plan to cut 87.7 million was demanded by the Assembly last year. Cardiff and Vale cut funding for diagnostics, when it is missing targets for the detection of cancer; closed the emergency poisons unit at Llandough, when it is missing targets for dealing with emergencies, and cut the budgets of surgery and many more departments.

The board has explicitly admitted that the reason they take too long to deal with emergency patients is that there aren't enough staff or beds.

Even official figures say that 97% of bed space is occupied and that hospitals in the area are 110 beds short - that's before this year's cuts are carried out. Waiting times, already long, are being pushed up, leaving people to suffer in pain needlessly.

Mass campaign needed

The staff left behind after the cuts are under enormous pressure. Stress levels are through the roof. Predictably, sickness has rocketed. The response of the board, however, isn't to make sure there are enough workers in place to do the job, but to bring in a draconian new sickness-management regime, that will be used to force people to come to work when they're ill... in a hospital!

The Welsh Assembly has the power to stop the cuts: it must use it! It is not good enough for ministers to criticise Tory cuts when they are announced in Westminster but then claim that the Assembly is "softening the blow" when it implements savage cuts here in Wales.

Despite NHS facilities being over half a billion pounds short this year, First Minister Carwyn Jones claims there are no cuts in the NHS in Wales! The Assembly must refuse to pass on the cuts to local health boards and instead coordinate the setting of budgets that meet the real needs for NHS services in the community.

To be successful this needs to be combined with a mass campaign of the trade unions and communities involving demonstrations and, if necessary, strike action.

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